The first UK cases of Omicron were only confirmed on November 27 and the speed of its spread has alarmed ministers and prompted an acceleration of the booster jab programme
Medics in South Africa have identified a fifth common symptom of the Omicron variant of Covid – back pain.
Ryan Noach – chief executive of South Africa’s largest private health insurer Discovery Health, said lower back pain was being reported as a common symptom.
Discover Health conducted the research into the 78,000 cases and now have listed the symptom as myalgia – muscle aches and pains.
Experts in the UK have already identified that Omicron tends to have very different symptoms from other variants of the disease.
Normally people are asked to look out for a fever, persistent cough and loss of sense of taste or smell as signs of Covid.
But now Omicron is reported to give symptoms more like a common cold – a scratchy throat, runny nose, sneezing and headache.
The symptoms are considered similar to a common cold – but experts have warned that in London, if you think you have a cold, it’s actually more likely to Omicron.
The first UK cases of Omicron were only confirmed on November 27 and the speed of its spread has alarmed ministers and prompted a dramatic acceleration of the booster jab programme.
Boris Johnson has set an ambitious target of one million jabs a day and to ensure the roll out is continuous, people will even be able to get their booster shot on Christmas Day.
The UK Health Security Agency has previously projected that Omicron could become the dominant variant across the country by the middle of the month.
So far one person is confirmed to have died from the Omicron variant – but their age or vaccination status isn’t known.
NHS England have scrapped the 15-minute wait for patients after they’ve have their Pfizer Covid jabbed to speed up the booster programme.
They have done away with the quarter-of-an-hour sit-down so more doses can be administered.
The isolation rules have also changed, with those who have come into contact with a positive case expected to do a daily lateral flow test.
But there are currently no PCR Covid test slots left in some areas of England.
A top medic has warned that Covid restrictions could be needed for up to eight weeks if modelling on the impact of the Omicron variant is correct.
Dr Susan Hopkins, chief medical adviser to the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), said there would need to be “some level of restrictions in place for the next four to eight weeks” if estimates by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) were accurate.
Scientists at LSHTM said the new strain could cause between 25,000 to 75,000 deaths in England over the next five months after examining experimental data.
Even if booster jabs are found to be effective against Omicron, they projected a wave of infection which could lead to a peak of more than 2,000 daily hospital admissions.
Stephen Lock / i-Images)
Dr Hopkins was grilled about the need for restrictions by the Commons Science and Technology Committee.
Asked by Tory Committee chair Greg Clark on the exit strategy from Covid curbs, she said: “This is our fourth time going into something like this.
“The waves last a period of time and the more the restrictions are effective, then the smaller the peak, and therefore you can reduce and return life to normal.”
She said boosting the population was likely to reduce hospitalisations – and limit the strain on the NHS.
Asked when restrictions could be lifted based on the modelling so far, she said: “So I think that if the modelling that the London School has done [is right], I would expect that there is going to be needing some level of restrictions in place for the next four to eight weeks.”
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.